AMD unveils latest Athlon chips

Advanced Micro Devices is to launch its fastest desktop processors today - the Athlon XP 2700+ and 2800+.

Advanced Micro Devices is to launch its fastest desktop processors today - the Athlon XP 2700+ and 2800+.

The 2800+ and 2700+ will feature a 333MHz front side bus, an upgrade over previous Athlon XPs with 266MHz buses.

"The front side bus is like the main highway inside a PC, carrying all kinds of data going in and out of the CPU," said Shane Rau, research analyst, semiconductors at IDC.

Improving the speed of the front side bus generated more of an improvement in overall processor performance than the relatively small clock speed increases expected in the two new Athlons, he added.

AMD announced last month it would release the 2800+ and 2700+ chips, which are based on the Thoroughbred core, before releasing chips based on its new Barton core, which will feature 512Kbytes of Level 2 cache, or memory that is external to the processor.

The chips based on Thoroughbred and Barton cores are 32-bit processors. However, AMD said the release of Athlon and Opteron processors based on AMD's 64-bit Hammer technology would be delayed.

Athlon chips based on the Barton core will come out early next year, before the 64-bit Hammer chips. This means AMD will be able to position its Athlon processors as a high-performance yet low-cost processor compared with the Hammer chips. The company will phase out its lowest-priced product, the Duron processor, by the end of the year.

However, rival chipmaker Intel is expected to release a 3.06GHz Pentium 4 desktop processor equipped with its hyperthreading technology later this year. The hyperthreading technology allows software written for multiple-processor systems to run on a single processor.

This could erase any performance gain realised by AMD's forthcoming technologies, but it's too early to know how the latest battles between AMD and Intel will turn out.

"Both [companies] are trying to crank out as much performance at the lowest prices they can to present the best value picture," said Rau.

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